The Dallas Stars beat the Anaheim Ducks, 4-2, in regulation, and the Nashville Predators lose an unimaginable game to the Arizona Coyotes, 5-4. This locks the Stars in the first Wild Card spot. The Predators in the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Both games were odd in their own ways, but the Dallas Stars faced a new goalie each period, including their EBUG, which is otherwise known as an emergency backup goalie. Clinching the first Wild Card spot now places the Stars playing the Calgary Flames in the first round.
Dallas Stars Wild Card Story Undergoes Final Twist
Dallas players, coaching staff, and fans were prepared to play the Colorado Avalanche but in a wild change of events and with the help of the Arizona Coyotes, the Stars were able to pass the Predators by one point in the last games of the season for both teams. The Predators were up 4-1 in the first period and the Coyotes scored five unanswered goals to end their season with a comeback win. The Stars finished the season with 98 points and a record of 46-30-6; this is their highest season since the 2015-2016 season when they finished the season with 109 points.
First Round Do-Over for the Stars and Flames
The Stars will once again meet the Flames in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in three years. In 2020, the Stars beat the Flames in six games in a massive upset. After Calgary took the first game of the series in a 3-2 win, the second game was a series-changing game for both teams. Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk took a massive hit by both Jamie Benn and Jamie Oleksiak at the same time; Tkachuk would not return to play in the remainder of the series. And Stars number one goaltender, Ben Bishop, would play this game but not play in the remainder of the series due to an injury, leaving the goaltending duties to backup goalie Anton Khudobin. The Dallas Stars won game two, 5-4.
A Look Back
The Flames would take game three in a 2-0 win. However, the Stars would soon take control of the series in Game Four where they won in overtime 5-4. Forward Joe Pavelski got a hat trick, which would be the first hat trick in a playoff series for the Stars since 1993. DAllas also claimed game five by winning 2-1 and just needed one more win to move on to the next round. Dallas came to play in the last game of the series, winning 7-3. Denis Gurianov would score four goals in this game, including a hat trick in the second period.
These numbers put Gurianov tied for the Stars record for the most points in a playoff game at five points. The Dallas Stars would move on to the next series and would eventually make it to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both the Stars and the Flames missed the playoffs last year.
Experience of a Lifetime
The Stars vs Ducks game was nothing short of unusual.Anaheim had to use a new goalie each period. Ducks goaltender, John Gibson, was taken out of the game after the first period with an upper-body injury. In Gibson’s absence, goaltender Anthony Stolarz stepped in, allowing two goals, before exiting the game with a lower-body injury.
Because Anaheim was out of goalies, they needed to use the Dallas Stars emergency backup goalie, Thomas Hodges. Hodges saved two out of three save attempts, allowing one goal that was deflected off of temporary teammate, Andrej Sustr, giving him a save percentage of .667%. Hodges even denied Roope Hintz on a one-timer from the circle. The backup goalie was named the third star of the game and got props from both teams after the game.
Hodges is a 28-year-old from Shropshire, England that moved to Texas when he was 11 years old due to his father’s work. After moving to Texas, Hodges fell in the love with the sport of hockey. He dreamed of playing in the NHL, only to have that cut short when a puck to the face caused him to lose all vision in his left eye.
Hodges sells life insurance by day and is an EBUG for the Allen Americans, as well as the Stars. The goaltender didn’t play much higher than 18u at a very competitive level. However, he has been an EBUG for the Stars since 2019. Before his NHL debut in last night’s game, he previously had his ECHL debut with the Allen Americans. Hodges told interviewers in the post-game media conference that he practices with the Stars when someone needs a break. However, Hodges had not practiced with them much as of late, due to COVID player safety precautions.
With a whirlwind of changes in the last 24 hours of hockey, the Stars look to re-create that winning series from the 2020 bubble playoff run. This will be their first time back in the playoffs since the heartbreaking loss in the Stanley Cup Final. Game one is set in Calgary on Tuesday.